Read Dark Magic Online

Authors: Christine Feehan

Tags: #Vampires, #General, #Magicians, #Romance, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #New Orleans (La.)

Dark Magic

Dark Magic

Christine Feehan

Dark Series - book 4

Chapter One

The night was alive with the heartbeats of countless people. He walked among them, unseen, undetected, moving with the fluid grace of a jungle predator. Their scents were strong in his nostrils. Cloying perfume. Sweat. Shampoos. Soaps. Alcohol. Drugs. AIDS. The sweet, insidious smell of blood. There were so many in this city. Cattle. Sheep. Prey. The city was the perfect hunting ground.

But he had fed well that day, so even though the blood whispered to him, tempting him with the promise of strength, power, the seductive rush of excitement, he refrained from indulging his cravings. After all his centuries of walking the earth, he knew the whispered promises were empty. He already had enormous power and strength, and he knew that the rush, addicting though it might be, was the same illusory high the humans' drugs provided.

The stadium in this modern city was huge, with thousands of people packed inside. He walked past the guards without hesitation, secure in the knowledge that they could not detect his presence.

The magic show—combining feats of escape, disappearance, and mystery—was almost finished, and a hush of breathless anticipation had fallen over the crowd. On stage a column of mist rose eerily from the spot where, a moment before, the magician herself had stood.

He blended into the shadows, his pale silver gaze riveted to the stage. Then she emerged from the mist, every man's fantasy, every man's dream of hot, steamy nights. Of satin and silk. Mystical, mysterious, a mix of innocence and seduction, she moved with the grace of an enchantress. Thick blue-black hair cascaded in waves to her slim hips. A white Victorian lace gown covered her body, cupping high, full breasts and molding her narrow rib cage and tiny, tucked-in waist. Small pearl buttons down the front were open from hem to thigh, revealing enticing glimpses of shapely legs. Her trademark dark glasses concealed her eyes but drew attention to her lush mouth, perfect teeth, and classic cheekbones.

Savannah Dubrinsky, one of the world's greatest magicians.

He had endured nearly a thousand years of black emptiness. No joy, no rage, no desire. No emotion. Nothing but the crouching beast, hungry, insatiable. Nothing but the growing darkness, the stain spreading across his soul. His pale eyes slid over her small, perfect figure, and need slammed into him. Hard. Ugly. Painful. His body swelled, hardened, every muscle taut, hot, aching. His fingers curled slowly around the back of a stadium seat, digging deeply, leaving visible impressions of a man's fingers in the metal. Perspiration beaded on his forehead. He let the pain wash over him, through him. Savored it.
He felt
.

His body didn't just want her. It demanded her, burned for her. The beast raised its head and eyed her, marked her, claimed her. Hunger rose sharply, dangerously, ferociously. On stage, two assistants began chaining her, their hands touching her soft skin, their bodies brushing hers. A low growl rumbled in his throat; his pale eyes glowed a feral red. In that moment one thousand years of self-control went up in flames, setting a dangerous predator free. No one was safe, mortal or immortal, and he knew it.

On stage, Savannah's head came up and swung around as if she were scenting danger, a small fawn caught in a trap, run to ground.

His gut clenched hotly.
Feelings
. Dark desire. Raw lust. A stark, primitive need to possess. He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. He smelled her fear and was pleased by it. Having thought himself lost for all eternity, he didn't care that his feelings were so intense that they bordered on violence. They were genuine. And there was joy in the ability to feel, no matter how dangerous. It didn't matter to him that he had marked her unfairly, that she did not rightfully belong to him, that he had manipulated the outcome of their union even before her birth, that he had broken the laws of their people in order to have her. None of it mattered. Only that she was his at last.

He felt her mind search; it brushed at him like the wings of a beautiful butterfly. But he was an ancient, powerful and knowledgeable beyond the boundaries of Earth. He was the one his own kind spoke of in whispers, with awe, with fear, with dread.
The Dark One
. Despite her premonition of danger, she had no hope of finding him until he allowed it.

His lips drew back in a silent snarl as the blond assistant bent to trail a hand across Savannah's face and brush her forehead with a kiss before locking her, manacled and chained, inside a steel vault. Fangs exploded into his mouth, and the beast eyed the man with the cold, unblinking stare of a killer. Deliberately he focused on the blond's throat—let him feel, just for one moment, the agony of strangulation. The man grabbed at his throat and stumbled, then recovered, dragging air into his lungs. He took a quick, nervous look around, trying in vain to see into the audience. Still breathing hard in alarm, he turned back to help lower the vault into a chamber flooded with water.

The unseen predator growled his warning softly, a deadly, menacing sound only the blond could hear. The man on stage whitened visibly and muttered something to the other assistant, who shook his head quickly with a slight frown.

While the return of his feelings brought indescribable joy to the ancient, his loss of control was dangerous, even to him. He turned his back on the performance and left the stadium, his every step away from Savannah painful. Still, he accepted the pain, rejoiced in his ability to feel it.

His first hundred years had been a wild orgy of feeling, senses, power, desires—even goodness. But slowly, relentlessly, the darkness that imperiled the soul of a Carpathian male without a lifemate had claimed him. Emotions faded, colors disappeared, until he simply existed. He experimented, found knowledge and power, and paid the price for it. He fed, he hunted, he killed when he deemed it appropriate. And always the darkness thickened, threatening to taint his soul forever, to turn him into one of the damned, the undead.

She
was innocent. There was laughter in her, compassion, goodness. She was light to his darkness. A bitter smile curved his sensual mouth, touching it with cruelty. His bulging, sinewy muscles rippled. He tossed back his thick, jet-black, shoulder-length hair. His face became as harsh and merciless as he was. His pale eyes, which easily drew mortals, held them, entranced them, became the eyes of death, the silver slash of cold steel.

Even from a distance he felt thunderous applause shake the ground, the roaring approval that signaled Savannah's escape from the flooded vault. He blended into the night, a sinister shadow impossible for either humans or his kind to detect. His patience was that of the earth itself, his stillness that of the mountains. He stood without moving amid the insanity of the crowds rowdily pouring out of the stadium and into their cars in the parking lot, creating the inevitable traffic jam. He knew where she was at every moment; he had made certain of their link when she was but a child. And not even death could break the bond he had forged between them. She had put an ocean between them, running away to her mother's native country, America, and in her innocence had thought herself safe.

The passage of time meant little to him. Eventually the sounds of cars and people faded away, and the lights blinked out around him, leaving the night to him. He inhaled deeply, drank in her scent. He stretched, a panther stalking prey. He could hear her soft laughter, low, musical, unforgettable. She was talking with the blond assistant, overseeing her props being packed up for loading onto the trucks. Although the two were still in the building and a great distance from him, he could hear their conversation without effort.

"I am so happy this tour is finally over." Savannah meandered wearily after the last of the crew to the loading dock, lowered herself onto the stairs, and watched as the men lifted the steel vault into the huge truck. "Did we make all the money you thought we would?" she teased her assistant gently. Both knew she didn't care about the money and never paid the slightest bit of attention to the financial side of things. Without Peter Sanders to see to all the details, she'd probably be flat broke.

"More than I thought. We can call this one a success." Peter grinned down at her. "San Francisco is supposed to be a fabulous city. Why don't we vacation here? We can do the whole tourist thing—cable cars, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz. We can't pass up this opportunity—we may never come here again."

"Not me," Savannah declined, rousing a little as Peter threw himself onto the step beside her. "I'm catching up on z's. You can tell me all about it."

"Savannah…" Peter sighed heavily. "I'm asking you out."

She sat up straight, removed the dark glasses, and looked directly at him. Heavily fringed with long dark lashes, her eyes were deep blue, almost violet, with strange slivers of silver radiating through them like stars. As always, when she looked straight at him, Peter felt a strange disorientation, as if he were falling, drowning, lost in the gleaming stars in her eyes.

"Oh, Peter." Her voice was soft, musical, mesmerizing. It was one of the things that had brought her stardom so quickly. She could hold an audience effortlessly with her voice alone. "All our sexiness and flirting in the show is just an act. We're friends, and we work together, and that means everything to me. When I was growing up, the closest thing I ever had to a best friend was a wolf." She didn't add that she still thought of mat wolf every day. "I'm not willing to risk a relationship I value by trying to make something else out of it."

Peter blinked and shook his head to clear it. She always sounded so incredibly logical, so convincing. Whenever she looked at him, it was impossible to disagree with anything she said. She could steal his will as easily as she stole his breath. "A wolf? A real one?"

She nodded. "When I was younger, we lived in a very remote part of the Carpathian Mountains. There were no children to play with. One day a little wolf cub wandered out of the woods near our house. He would play with me whenever I was alone." There was a faint ache in her voice at the thought of her lost animal friend. "He just seemed to know when I needed him, when I was sad or lonely. He was always gentle. Even when he was teething, he only bit me a few times." She rubbed her arm in memory, her fingertips marking the spots in an unconscious caress. "As he grew, he became my constant companion; we were inseparable. I was never afraid in the woods at night because he was always there to protect me. He was enormous, with glossy black fur and intelligent gray eyes that looked at me with such understanding. Sometimes he looked so solemn that he seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his back. When I made the decision to come to America, it was hard to leave my parents, but heartbreaking to leave my wolf. Before I left, I cried for three nights straight, my arms around his neck. He never moved, not once, as if he understood and was mourning, too. If there had been a way, I would have brought him with me. But he needed to be free."

"You're telling me the truth? A real wolf?" Peter asked incredulously. While he could believe that Savannah could easily tame man or beast, he was puzzled by the animal's behavior. "I thought wolves were shy of people. Not that I've met very many of them—at least not the four-legged variety."

She flashed him a grin. "He was huge and could be ferocious, but my wolf was anything but shy with me. Of course, he was never really around anyone else, not even my parents. He would lope off into the woods if someone came near. Still, he would watch from afar to make certain I was safe. I'd see his eyes shining in the forest, watching, and it made me feel safe."

Realizing he had allowed her to distract him, Peter deliberately looked away from her, knotting his fists in determination. "It isn't natural, the way you live, Savannah. You isolate yourself from any close relationships."

"We're close," she pointed out gently. "I'm very fond of you, Peter, like a brother. I've always wanted a brother."

"Don't, Savannah. You haven't even given us a chance. And who else do you have in your life? I escort you to parties and interviews. I oversee the accountant and arrange the bookings and make certain the bills are paid. The only thing I don't do is sleep with you."

A low growl rumbled warningly through the night, sending a chill spiraling down Peter's spine. Savannah's head went up, and she looked cautiously around. Peter stood, peering toward the trucks pulling away from the loading dock.

"Did you hear that?" He reached a hand down to draw Savannah to her feet, his eyes frantically searching every shadow. "I didn't tell you, but the oddest thing happened during the show." He was whispering as if the very night had ears. "After I put you in the vault, my throat closed off. It was as if someone had his hands around my throat, someone very powerful. I felt a murderous anger directed at me." He pushed a hand through his hair and laughed nervously. "Silly imagination, I know. But I heard that exact same growl in my head. It's insane, Savannah, but it felt as if I was being warned off you."

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